If you’re preparing for a college fair, you’ve probably read countless articles and received endless advice on what to do before, during, and after the fair. Do your research! Go armed with questions! Follow up with colleges you liked! But there’s a flip side to this coin, and that is what not to do. After all, there are a number of things that could unintentionally sabotage your experience or a potential college’s impression of you. Therefore, read on to learn ten things that you should NOT do at your next college fair.
- Don’t spend all your time talking to the schools you already like. A college fair is an opportunity to learn about many different colleges all at once. Therefore, don’t miss the opportunity to discover a new school of interest by spending the whole fair talking to schools where you already intend to apply. Definitely stop by those tables, too, but portion out your time wisely. Explore! Discover! But. . . .
- Don’t try to talk to every school. When you arrive—or, ideally, before you arrive—look through the list of schools in attendance and try to scope out the ones you think will interest you the most. Plan time for “browsing” schools that are entirely new to you, too, but don’t try to hit up every single table. If you do, you’ll wind up having a lot of brief, superficial conversations that probably won’t help you much in defining your college search.
- Don’t ask a college representative to predict your chances of admission. Yes, you should come to a college fair armed with questions for college reps, but skip the ones like, “Is my GPA high enough?” or, “Should I retake the SAT?” The college rep isn’t there to judge your admissibility, they’re there to offer information about the school and help you to determine whether it would be a good fit. Therefore, if you’re dead-set on talking about admissions, stick to questions about the process (e.g., “Are admissions interviews offered?” “How much weight is given to essays or letters of recommendation?”).
- Don’t let your parents do all the talking. You’re the one going to college, right? If so, you’re the one who should be asking the questions. And if you’re feeling shy, remember: when you get to campus, you won’t be able to hide behind your parents anymore; therefore, be assertive, and use this opportunity to show college representatives that you’re a mature, well-informed, college-ready adult that they would be proud to admit to their incoming class.
- Don’t skip colleges that seem “too hard.” Ideally, you’ll apply to a variety of colleges that range from “safety” to “reach,” with plenty of likely matches in between. Therefore, use the college fair as an opportunity to explore the whole range, not just schools where you feel confident you’ll get in.
- Don’t ask questions you can Google in two seconds. This wastes your time and the college rep’s time. Numbers-related questions (their preferred SAT or GPA, student-to-faculty ratios, etc.) can typically be found on the college’s website, so try to ask more experience-related questions, such as: What is student life like? How is the food? What do students especially like or dislike about the campus?
- Don’t fill out a card (or scan your barcode) unless you are actually interested. At each table, college representatives will encourage you to fill out a card with your personal information (or to scan your personal barcode). For each card you fill, you can expect a series of pamphlets to arrive at your door soon after, plus emails in your inbox and even, possibly, voicemails on your phone. Therefore, save yourself the headache (and a few trees) and don’t sign up for this onslaught of information unless you are actually interested in the school.
But. . . .
- Don’t walk away from a school you like without filling out a card. If you’re already receiving emails and pamphlets from this school, you might assume that they don’t need your information again. However, filling out one of these college fair cards is an expression of interest—something colleges do track. So if you are interested, definitely fill out a card! It can only help your chance of admission.
- Don’t disrespect the fair hours. Larger fairs might have security guards who enforce the fair hours, but whether someone is guarding the doorway or not, don’t march inside before the official start time. You might think that entering early makes you look like a go-getter, but the fair starts at a certain time for a reason: the college reps need time to set up! And staying after the fair has ended is just rude. After all, would you want to be held hostage at your job after your shift ends?
And, last but not least . . . .
- Don’t forget your manners. Sounds basic, but manners can be easy to forget. Don’t cut in line. Don’t interrupt another student. Don’t talk or text on your phone in the middle of interacting with a college rep. And don’t grab-and-go. Snatching a giveaway and shuffling away like you didn’t see the college rep standing right there is just rude. Don’t do it!